Eight months ago, I reached a point in my life where my emotional pain was more than my happiness. I knew I had to change.  So I put all my energy into learning about myself, life, being present, living in the now, and about spirituality. I read dozens of books, some of them twice.  I began the practice of meditation, and made it my goal to live with love and peace.

I became aware of how we human beings fear death, how society, the media, television, advertising, & peer pressure affect us as individuals,  how the ego works and tries to control our actions and behavior, how past emotional pain affects the present, the importance of being selfless rather than selfish, the value of listening, giving, being of service, loving oneself, as well as all people.

Learning to accept what is,  not to judge others, and to forgive required focus and repeated effort.  It did not come easy but it was worth it.  Sure I still have situations come up that challenge me but now I have the ability to process these emotions and let them go.

I have become a new man. I have come far and realize that there is much still to learn.  So I keep reading, thinking, and being. I have awakened the sleeper inside myself.  While my journey continues, I created this blog to start being of service to others.  I wanted to share the lessons I have learned and pay it forward. My rationale is that an old dog can learn new tricks.  I am not unique and think that if I can learn and grow so can others.  The bottom line is – we all have the ability to love.

Over the last two days,  I read two great books.  They made me think not just about death, but how we live our lives.  The first book was The Five people you meet in heaven, the second was Tuesdays with Morris. The author of both books  is Mitch Albon.

After finishing the first book, I sat alone and was still with my thoughts. The book was powerful and had many messages.  The most prominent is that we are all connected.  People you may not even know impact your life and the lives of those you love.  At the same time you may impact the lives of others without knowing it.

So I thought about my life and the people that touched me and the people I touched.  One of the first things that came to mind was all the people I have taught how to scuba dive.  Over the years, I have helped countless people face their fears. Being underwater is like being in space as one must carry their own air supply.  I saw many people struggle with wearing a mask and learning to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose. I saw people concur their fear of sharks, that they got from watching the movie Jaws. By the end of the class these people were elated.  It was not always good however I had to rescue many divers and tow them back to the shore or boat.  Some freaked out when they looked up and realized they were 30 feet deep, or when they forgot to breathe through their mouth not nose, a few got injured by jellyfish stings, or getting cut on coral.  And one man died.
It was his final dive of the class and he had mastered the basic skills required for certification. The man was 60 years old and it was his lifes dream to scuba dive.  He seemed very comfortable underwater and I never thought he would have a heart attack.   He was in 6 feet of water when he had a stroke.  My fellow instructors got him out of the water and began CPR.  The diver lived for 2 days in the hospital and then passed away. His son contacted me a day later and wanted to see me.  Since the father was a lawyer I automatically assumed he wanted to tell me face to face he was going to sue me.  But, when we met, the son hugged me and thanked me and the other instructors involved for not only rescuing his dad, but for teaching him how to dive so he could fulfill his life’s dream.  The last few days of his life were spent doing something he always wanted to do. The next week we received a letter from the mans family, signed by the wife, and two sons formally thanking us for what joy we had provided their loved one.

I also gave some thought to the families that I have photographed over the years. Besides being a diver I am a Master photographer and specialize in creating canvas portraits and custom books of families.  I have a special gift capturing relationships that show the connection and love that exists within a family.  I have always felt a picture is a snap shot of life but a portrait tells a story and evokes an emotional response. As the years went by I’ve received a lot of letters from families telling me how the portraits I created became their most treasured possessions.  Children had grown up and moved out, and parents had died but the portraits created gave love and peace to those that viewed them.

After reading the second book, I thought about life – and death.  The book was about how a teacher got Lou Gehrigs and how he shared important life lessons with one of his favorite students.  The teacher knew he was going to die, and that fact brought bright him clarity and wisdom. The lesson was to learn to forgive, learn to love, and to enjoy life.

I thought about my grandfather, who has already passed away and my dad.   My dad is still alive but not in good health.  I love both dearly, and thought about their lives and the people they have touched.  Both were teachers in high school.  They each taught for about 30 something years before they retired. They touched the lives of thousands of kids, and many of these students went on to do great things. They never forgot my father or grandfather as evidenced by many letters received from them.  Currently one of my dads former students is actually writing a book about the influence he had on many of the kids he taught.

I also thought people that affected me in a positive way.  In 9th grade, I had a physics teacher named Monty.  He knew I was from a broken home and became my mentor.  He provide me so much positive support that I will never forget him.  I remember on weekends I would get dropped off at his house for the day.  We would do some school work, watch sports on t.v and walk in the park talking about life. I so appreciate the time he spent with me.

Then I thought about my life.  Before I began my spiritual journey I must admit my life was all about me. Yes, I did support some worthy causes like saving the whales, sharks, ocean, rain forests, and nature but for the most part I was selfish. I did not live to be of service to others, and I did not understand forgiveness, acceptance.  I judged people by their appearance and I held on to grudges and the emotional baggage we all accumulate from being alive.  But since beginning my transformation nine months ago all that changed.  Perhaps that is why this book really affected me.  I understood the lessons offered, and found great wisdom in the story.  If anything the book only served to reinforce all the work I have done to find peace and live with love.

I hope that as people read this they will reflect on their lives and realize that being born is the beginning, and that death is the end of our physical form.  The love that we create, foster, and nourish lives on.  At the same time what happens in between is up to us.  We control our destiny and by practicing compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, we can be happy.  There is no need to wait until we are deaths door to forgive ourselves or our loved ones. Those that can do this will find their lives to be rich with love, friends, and family.  This is true wealth and the joy of being alive.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.  Live with love and peace and enjoy your life…..